February 15, 2016
Guest blog post by Jasper Finkeldey, doctoral researcher at the University of Essex. He was formerly the German language editor of the European Magazine cafebabel.com.
Yanis Varoufakis’ call for “authentic democracy” in Europe bears potential contradictions. His new pan-European movement has to answer difficult questions if they want to be heard, writes Jasper Finkeldey.
Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis remains the face of an insurgent tribe aiming to transform Europe without dismantling it. In a Berlin theatre, he launched ‘Democracy in Europe Movement 2025’ (DiEM25) with politicians and other ‘friends’ from all over Europe.
DiEM wants to build a broad alliance against an “authoritarian” enemy who seeks to “co-opt, evade, corrupt, mystify, usurp and manipulate democracy in order to break its energy and arrest its possibilities”, as they accuse in their manifesto. Back-door politicians with the likes of Merkel, Schäuble, Eurogroup president Dijsselbloem and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker embody this enemy, as we learn in his introductory clip.
However, this movement wants more than pointing fingers at the ones in power for the multiple crises they identify. With immediate effect, DiEM demands that decision-making arenas in Brussels be made more transparent. This entails that documents around the Transatlantic Trade Agreement (TTIP) negotiations as well as talks about Britain’s future in the EU should be made available for every citizen to download. Minutes of important players such as the European Central Bank (ECB) should also be made public.
Further DiEM proposals include higher levels of investment from Europe’s core countries to tackle growing poverty levels in Europe’s periphery. Austerity is identified as the coffin nail of European democracy as multiple speakers such as UK’s only Green MP Caroline Lucas underlined yesterday.
However, it is more interesting to look at who did not join Varoufakis for DiEM’s launch. Only last September, Varoufakis met French far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélonchon and the former chairperson of Germany’s left opposition party Die Linke, Oskar Lafontaine, in Paris to discuss a European Plan B. Those two did not join Varoufakis in Berlin.
Plan B looked at how Europe could survive by moving integration backward and possibly killing the Euro as common currency. Varoufakis and friends have another vision in mind. DiEM wants to be a broad alliance of “socialist, social-democratic, green, and liberal-democratic progressives” and cling on to the idea that Europe can only be saved by making pan-European politics. None of the multiple speakers from all parts of the continent put into doubt the Euro.
Instead DiEM puts forward that the EU’s core problem is a lack of “authentic democracy”. European Green MEP Sven Giegold challenged this analysis prior to DiEM’s launch. He said that “statements to deny the European institutions all democratic legitimacy denies that ultimately all European institutions are democratically accountable”.
Giegold suggests that it is rather a lack of political will than undemocratic institutions that stand in the way of more progressive politics in Europe. Conservatives, social democrats and liberals in the European parliament lubricated austerity politics when it could have challenged it, said Giegold.
There is no doubt that DiEM has good intentions for Europe’s future. But contradictions are looming from its manifesto. One of the urgent questions they need to address is: how can the Euro work for the whole Eurozone in the face of abysmal economic differences between its member states?
If the movement does not find a pertinent answer to the question of the common currency it will face the same problem Syriza encountered in Greece. The other challenge concerns the very question of democracy. DiEM’s call for “authentic democracy” logically requires majorities. The pan-European movement will have to find ways to occupy positions of power to implement their ideas. So far majorities in parliaments around the continent voted for austerity politics. It is this “battle of ideas” that DiEM will have to win.Blogactiv Team